Harper Grey: The Low-Budget Blunder


The Savvy Shopper - Harper Grey

My husband and I went to see The Bourne Legacy last weekend. It was pretty good, especially if you like really, really long motorcycle chase scenes (and why does the main character in the Bourne movies always have to run along rooftops while being chased? Seriously). But whatever gripes I have about the chase scenes in The Bourne Legacy, the pre-movie local commercials were much, much worse. I shudder to think how many children in third-world countries could be fed with the amount of money these businesses were wasting while making themselves appear amateurish and cheap.

The pre-movie commercials are a nice way for local businesses to get exposure without having to pay for more expensive television network air time. You have a captive audience (once people have gotten their popcorn and sodas and settled into their seats, they’re not going anywhere). So spending some marketing dollars on a commercial might be a good idea. But you can make some big mistakes when it comes to this kind of advertising.

“My kids are so cute, let’s put them in a commercial”

A local furniture store featured a commercial in which the children of the two owners romped about, jumping on the new mattresses and rolling around on the couches. Yes, the kiddies were kind of cute and they had on cute matching outfits with little matching bows in their perfectly-curled hair. But what does that have to do with furniture? And is the guy still selling the mattresses that have been jumped on? Because if so, I want a serious discount.

“I’m so fun and crazy”

Then there’s the guy with the computer store. He’s SO FUN AND CRAZY! He likes to wear stupid gorilla costumes or pretend that he’s a samurai or just scream into the camera. This would work for me if the guy owned a business selling . . . well, never mind. I can’t think of a single thing I’d buy based on a FUN AND CRAZY business owner who is willing to make a complete fool of himself on camera and actually pay for an ad agency and air time.

“My brother-in-law has a camera, so he can shoot this”

OK, so maybe you don’t have a very big budget for your commercial. And you can save a lot of cash by hiring a family member to just get out his camera and start shooting. But this is an epic mistake. The car dealership that tried this technique had some major issues. For one thing, the shots were so jumpy you could barely focus on the cars before the shot changed to something else. For another thing, people see enough professional commercials that bad camera work is immediately obvious even to the most absent-minded viewer.

“Who needs to pay a makeup artist?”

Yes, even the guys need makeup on the set. No, you shouldn’t be able to tell that the guys are wearing makeup. You know how there’s a whole career out there for professional makeup artists in Hollywood? There’s a reason for that. The people with the for-profit higher education school should probably lay out the cash for a makeup artist next time they shoot a commercial. No one wants to attend a school where the male professor is wearing way too much mascara and the receptionist has orange skin.

How bad commercials hurt your business

Of the local commercials I saw last weekend, probably 50% were horrible. They were obviously produced on very low budgets and it showed (you really do get what you pay for). As a consumer, my response to cheesy commercials is that I don’t want to do business with a company that is so unprofessional that they are willing to make fools of themselves in front of their customers. If you don’t have the money to spend on a talented ad agency, because you’re a really small company with a really small budget, I won’t hold that against you. Just don’t make a commercial at all. Instead, reach me another way.

Low-Budget Alternatives

Small businesses might not have the budget for a professional commercial. That’s perfectly understandable. But instead of wasting the money you do have on a crappy commercial that actually turns people away from your business, try some different marketing techniques.

  • Relationship-building marketing, such as hosting customer appreciation parties, will net you much more business than a cheesy commercial.
  • Get involved in your community by hosting food drives or donating to the local Little League team in order to get a banner put up at the baseball diamond.
  • Spend some money upgrading your signage; this technique improves your first impression. Add extra signage to advertise sales or special events.
  • Do some free marketing by getting involved in social media. Create a Facebook page for your business. Use Twitter to keep people abreast of the latest happenings in your store.